Thierry Ribault

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2016/2017
discipline Social Studies of Science and Technology
Research Fellow CNRS, CLERSE, University of Lille 1

Research project

Nuclear Power in Post-Fukushima Societies: Conceptions of Risk and Production of Ignorance


The proposed research focuses on the nature, place, and role of knowledge in a nuclear society. It aims to bring out the critical articulation between knowledge production and human protection. The case of the Fukushima nuclear disaster will be the central mobilized "empirical experience". "Agnotology" makes ignorance itself a subject of study, and, rather than asking what science is or what grounds it, asks how and why we end up not knowing certain things, even when trustworthy and attested knowledge is available.


The ambition is to extend the methodology developed in the field of "the production of ignorance" and to test the relevance of the concept of "agnotology" in the nuclear context—i.e. post-disaster Fukushima—and to examine the deliberate creation of ignorance in the field of science and nuclear technology and the epistemological and political consequences of this. The question of ignorance thus teams up with investigation of the public’s ability to acquire an understanding of the debates. Hence the connection between the idea of the Public and the publicity of knowledge in the nuclear domain, and the removal of nuclear realities from public and academic knowledge comprise the epistemological orientation of my project.


Through this contribution to this socio-politics of ignorance, four outcomes can be expected:


(i) A better understanding of the role of "counter-expertise" in the democratic conversation on nuclear power through an analysis of the different forms in which science is re-appropriated by citizens and the efficacy of this in terms of governance;


(ii) A critical analysis of the concept of "empowerment": is this concept becoming a new tool for social control, or can it still be considered an emancipative tool leading to effective democratization?


(iii) A re-assessment of the "human security" framework. The question of public information and the transmission of knowledge to future generations also pertains to human security, since not having access to information or technical expertise reduces "capabilities";


(iv) A contribution to the development of the threat paradigm versus risk paradigm. The study proposes to mobilize and articulate the concepts of threat and denial or dis-knowledge, in order to ask how our society produces ignorance (and insecurity) about the nuisances (and disasters) it contributes to generate. Distancing itself from the risk paradigm thus implies a reappraisal of our relation to morals and to politics, and to human existence.




Thierry Ribault is Chargé de recherche at CLERSE – Centre Lillois d’Etudes et de Recherches Sociologiques et Economiques of the University of Lille 1. He is also Scientific Director of the CNRS-InSHS International Associated Laboratory (LIA) "Human Protection and Responses to Disaster - Intensive Care in Industrial Societies". He holds a Ph.D in Applied Economics from the University of Lille. His research focuses on issues of vulnerability, human security, empowerment, risk paradigm, nuclear social studies, nuclear controversies, socio-politics of knowledge and ignorance.


Selected publications


'Le désastre de Fukushima', Raison Présente, no. 189, 2014, pp. 51-63.


'Intensive Care in Industrial Societies after Fukushima', IRIDE. Filosofia e Discussione Pubblica, vol. 26, no. 70, 2013, pp. 539-550.


'Protection in Fukushima ?', in C. Lévy & T. Ribault (eds), Catastrophe and Humanism: Reviewing the Disaster after March 11, Akashi Shoten Publishing, Tokyo, 2013, pp. 308-328.


Les sanctuaires de l’abîme: Chronique du désastre de Fukushima, with N. Ribault, Editions de l’Encyclopédie des Nuisances, Paris, 2012.


'L’empire du nucléaire: Quand Fukushima ne crachait pas encore ses 'atomes pour la paix'', in C. Lévy & T. Ribault (eds), Catastrophe du 11 mars 2011, désastre de Fukushima. Fractures et émergences, EBISU, vol. 47, 2012, pp. 89-98.



senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Psychology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Education
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline History of Science and Technology
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Social Anthropology